Category: iCloud

iTunes and iPods Get Revamp

iPod touch (6th gen) Front View

iPod touch (6th gen) | Image courtesy of Apple

Sharing the stage with the iPhone 5 Apple’s iPods and iTunes were updated in front of the world’s media today. Starting with iTunes Apple’s Eddy Cue announced a whole new version of iTunes on the desktop, version 11, with a major redesign (see it up close). Joswiak also explained how over 60% of music bought off the iTunes store is done through iOS devices so kicked off his section of today’s keynote by announcing a redesign of the iTunes store on iOS.

The changes to the desktop iTunes app are deeper than just the iTunes store which has also had a redesign. iTunes 11, set to land in late-October is much simpler to use and includes iCloud integration for seamless syncing of content between all devices, iCloud also remembers where you are in your favourite movies or TV shows no matter which device you’re viewing on. The new library view makes it easier to view your music, TV shows and movies, allowing you to click on the category of content you want to browse and that’s all you will see. The expandable album view allows you to see track listings for an individual album, while letting you continue to browse your music library. The new search feature searches across your entire iTunes library, including music, movies and TV shows.

iTunes Store on MacBook Pro (with Retina display), iPad and iPhone 5

Revamped iTunes Store on MacBook Pro (with Retina display), iPad and iPhone 5 | Image courtesy of Apple

One feature I’m personally keen on is called Up Next and is a new way to see what songs are coming up and queue songs or albums you want to hear next.

Apple also took the opportunity to show off the impressive statistics attached to the almost decade old iTunes store. The iTunes store includes 26 million songs, over 700,000 apps, over 190,000 TV episodes and over 45,000 films and is available in 63 countries around the world.

Apple also refreshed some of its iPod lineup in preparation for the upcoming Christmas shopping season. Both the iPod nano and iPod touch got major updates whilst the iPod shuffle got minor colour changes and the iPod classic remained untouched as with previous years.

The new iPod nano features a 2.5-inch multi-touch display, a small home button, navigation buttons on the side for quick track changing and Bluetooth for wireless transmission of music. The iPod nano is now just 5mm thin and available only in 16GB size in six different colours.

iPod nano is available in October for $149.

iPod nano (7th gen)

iPod nano (7th gen) | Image courtesy of Apple

The iPod touch also got a major revamp. Following in the steps of the iPhone 5 the new touch has a 4-inch retina display and a a 5MP camera with autofocus, support for 1080p video recording with video image stabilisation, face detection and an LED flash, and the new panorama mode. Every new iPod touch comes with a colour-matched iPod touch loop, a clever and convenient wrist strap a perfect accessory for kids.

The new iPod touch is just 6mm thin and weighs 88 grams. Inside Apple has managed to pack in last years A5 SoC but the graphics capabilities of this chip were enough for Apple to spend a considerable portion of the keynote showing off how good a gaming device the iPod touch is.

iPod touch is available in October in five colours in 32GB and 64GB capacities for $299 (£249) and $399 (£329) respectively.

Apple Unleashes Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion Notification Center on a MacBook Air

Mountain Lion Notification Center on a MacBook Air | Image courtesy of Apple

Today Apple has released OS X Mountain Lion onto the Mac App Store and into the hands of many eagerly awaiting customers. Priced at just $19.99 (£13.99) this marks Apple’s cheapest update and the first OS in a cycle in which Apple proclaims it will deliver an upgrade a year. This philosophy means that the upgrades will be small iteration updates, not the gigantic feature packed updates of the past.

In February when Mountain Lion was announced I wrote up the basic changes that extend far and wide but not necessarily so deep.

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Expectations at WWDC 2012

Moscone West in San Francisco adorned for WWDC 2012

Moscone West in San Francisco adorned for Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is approaching quickly and unlike last year it looks like Apple might put on more than a software only show. Equally exciting for 2012 is that in the six months that have passed Apple has released and updated relatively few products. Particularly notable for the six months that have made up 2012 so far is that not a single model of Mac has been refreshed. We know that Apple has a particular dislike for releasing new hardware in August and after late October which leaves only a few months for a whole bunch of products to be crammed into.

Macs which have so far been completely void of any changes and many of which haven’t been touched for almost 12 months or more will likely be changed ahead of the “back to school” period which usually runs during June and July. Such a release timeframe could coincide nicely with the release of OS X Mountain Lion pinned by Apple for “late summer”.

It is possible to say with confidence that neither the iPhone nor the iPad will see any sort of hardware change announced during the WWDC keynote on Monday. Both of Apple’s leading products are firmly set in predictable cycles—iPad in March and iPhone in October for those slow off the mark.

The problem with such a high number of potential announcements is that it becomes difficult to make accurate predictions for WWDC which has in recent history focused more on developers than consumers, certainly since the iPhone moved to a Fall refresh in 2010.

But as Apple has indicated in its WWDC 2012 material the upcoming week is the one “we’ve all been waiting for”. So let’s take a look at the likely candidates for next weeks keynote.

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Why Sync?

iCloud music on iPhone, iPad and Mac

iCloud music on iPhone, iPad and Mac

This week the subject of Apple’s cluttered and bloated iTunes app has been on the agenda. Jason Snell over at Macworld originally argued that if Apple is going to embrace the cloud, like it appears to be doing, then iTunes should be simpler. Snell suggests breaking iTunes down into separate apps, “one devoted to device syncing, one devoted to media playback. (And perhaps the iTunes Store could be broken out separately too?)”

Then Federico Viticci at MacStories chimed in with a slightly different take but along the same lines. Viticci’s take moves along a different tangent and one that has been playing on my mind for a few weeks now. The basic premise of Viticci’s argument is why does iTunes need to the hub of all our media and device syncing? Put simpler, why are we still using iTunes?

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Apple Blazes Into the Future With New iPad

The new iPad with Retina display

The new iPad with Retina display | Image courtesy of Apple

Apple today announced a new iPad finally putting an end to the chorus of iPad 3 rumours that have been circulating for many months. The new iPad, which is simply named iPad, is very much in line with the rumours. Also announced today, in line with expectation, was a new Apple TV.

Apple’s new Apple TV offers 1080p output and a new user interface which very much looks like Apple is positioning the device for more apps in the near future. Apple TV users can choose from over 15,000 movies and over 90,000 TV episodes on the iTunes Store, now available in 1080p. Apple TV also continues to offer content from Netflix’s streaming catalogue, live sports from MLB, NBA and NHL as well as Internet content from Vimeo, YouTube and Flickr.

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iOS 5 and iCloud Available October 12

iCloud music on iPhone, iPad and Mac

iCloud music on iPhone, iPad and Mac

Ahead of the iPhone 4S release on October 14 Apple will release iOS 5 to the public. On the same day, October 12, Apple will unleash iCloud to users of iOS 5 and OS X Lion.

“iCloud is the easiest way to manage your content, because iCloud does it all for you and goes far beyond anything available today,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “You don’t have to think about syncing your devices, because it happens automatically, and it is free.”

iCloud services include iTunes in the Cloud, Photo Stream and Documents in the Cloud, that work seamlessly with your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC to automatically and wirelessly store your content in iCloud and push it to all your devices.

iOS 5 which was previewed in detail back in June at its unveiling has today been released as a golden master to registered iOS developers. iOS 5 includes over 200 new features including Notification Center, an innovative way to easily view and manage notifications in one place without interruption; iMessage™, a new messaging service that lets you easily send text messages, photos and videos between all iOS 5 users; and Newsstand, a new way to purchase and organize your newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

iCloud will be available on October 12 as a free download to iPhone, iPad or iPod touch users running iOS 5 or a Mac running OS X Lion with a valid Apple ID. iCloud includes 5GB of free cloud storage for Mail, Document Storage and Backup. Purchased music, TV shows, apps, books and Photo Stream do not count against the storage limit. iTunes Match will be available starting in the US later this month for $24.99 a year. Using iCloud with a PC requires Windows Vista or Windows 7; Outlook 2010 or 2007 is recommended for accessing contacts and calendars. Additional iCloud storage upgrades are available to purchase starting at $20 a year for 10GB, $40 a year for 20GB and $100 a year for 50GB.

iOS 5 will be available as a free software update for iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2, iPad and iPod touch (third and fourth generation) customers, allowing them to experience the amazing new features.

Looking Ahead to Today’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” Event

October 4 iPhone 5 Invite

iPhone 5 press invite for Apple's October 4 event

Despite Apple’s own use of iPhone in the event invite I view the term ‘iPhone event” with hesitation, I firmly believe that today’s event being held at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino at 10am Pacific (6pm London) is an iOS device event not just focused on the iPhone.

Much of what I wrote last week on the iPhone rumour cycle and where we’re at remains largely true. Except many onlookers and commentators have placed themselves firmly into one of two camps, the first camp believing that Apple won’t release a device called the iPhone 5 but will instead release a new phone called the iPhone 4s and alongside it an 8GB iPhone 4. The second camp against all odds still believes we’ll see an iPhone 5, some even believe with a complete redesign, and that the iPhone 4s is the new low-end iPhone.

Whatever happens today we know one thing for sure, Apple has kept this rumour cycle the most locked down of them all, or at very least they’ve distracted us enough with iPhone 5 rumours that we’re missing the picture.

I personally remain firmly in the camp of thought that we’ll see an iPhone 4s (N94) today powered by Apple’s A5 system-on-a-chip (SoC), 1GB of RAM, featuring an 8MP camera and available in 16, 32, and 64GB capacities. There are strong rumours that Apple has incorporated a chip capable of GSM and CDMA in the iPhone 4s and that this phone will be capable of HSPA+ on GSM networks. HSPA+ is capable of very fast data speeds with most carriers supporting up to 21Mbps and is often classed as “4G” by those carriers, it’s not.

The iPhone 4s will take the shape of the current iPhone 4 but will be thinner and the antenna design adjusted, presumably to accommodate both CDMA and GSM capabilities.

The iPhone 4s is expected in Apple’s major markets on October 14 but some have suggested a very unlikely imminent release.

Alongside the iPhone 4s Apple will have an 8GB iPhone 4 (N90A for us geeks), it’s by no means a focus of the show, but it aims to hit the low-end market and help penetration in African and Asian markets. Some have speculated that this device has been reworked to make it even cheaper, if this is the case then the changes are very minimal.

Such an iPhone lineup leads to a problem though, every man and his dog is expecting an iPhone 5 and Apple doesn’t appear to have made its usual attempts to dampen expectation ahead of the event. So what else does Apple have up its sleeve?

It’s all in the software and this is where Apple shines. When Apple released the iPhone 3GS (notice a pattern?) in 2009 it was a slight upgrade from the 3G released the previous year. The ‘s’ was said to stand for speed, sure it was faster but it lacked that wow factor. One of Apple’s marquee features for the iPhone 3GS was voice recognition.

Apple looks set to make this the marquee feature of the iPhone 4s and this time do it properly. Everyone knows how voice recognition works on a phone, you say call a contact and it calls someone else. This will all change.

On the 28th April, 2010 Apple bought a company called Siri, at the time they made an iOS assistant app, the app incorporated a technology called ‘natural language processing’. The video below shows the app in action, note how accurate the recognition is.

Mac Rumors have fully embraced this rumour and had a mockup video made of the potential functionality of Siri in iOS 5.

The feature which is currently only scantily visible in betas of iOS 5 is said to be called ‘Assistant’ and be a system wide feature. An icon found in a beta of iOS 5 suggests a microphone button will sit in the bottom left of the keyboard which will enable dictation, but obviously the key point is the tightly integrated way in which information is presented upon making a query.

With Apple expected to unveil this feature at the event later today we should expect another iOS 5 beta for developers, whether this comes in the form of a Golden Master (GM) or not it doesn’t really matter.

iOS 5 will land before the iPhone 4S, possibly as soon as this Friday (October 7).

As I said earlier though this isn’t just an iPhone event, Apple’s current lineup of iPods have been on the market longer than any others as the month of September sailed past with not a hint of an iPod refresh. Much has been speculated about the future of the iPod, some by myself, and I suspect most of it’s wrong.

The iPod touch will naturally take centre stage and will take the form of previous updates with the upper models seeing an upgrade to the A5, extended battery life, they’re unlikely to get much thinner but will be available in white.

As for the other iPods, the rumours are scarce. Some have suggested the iPod classic and shuffle will go the way of the dodo, this may be true for the shuffle but only if the nano comes down in price. The classic, despite my own predictions a year ago, looks set to remain unchanged.

Apple does have one more big feature and that is of course, iCloud. Whilst unveiled at WWDC in June expect Apple to go over the details again, nothing is expected to have changed but we’ll get a date when the service goes live which could be within hours of the event.

Let’s summarise:

  • iPhone 4s available in 16, 32 and 64GB capacities. A5 chip, 1GB RAM, 8MP rear camera, looks like the current iPhone 4 but thinner and with a redesigned antenna. Both GSM and CDMA capable with HSPA+. Available October 14.
  • 8GB iPhone 4 to fill the gap of the low-end market. Largely unchanged.
  • iPod touch available in white and with the A5 chip, design unchanged, same goes for capacities.
  • iPod classic to remain the same, shuffle phased out and nano lowered in price.
  • iOS 5 key feature to be voice Assistant, we’ll see a GM this week and maybe public release on October 7.
  • iCloud available imminently.

Coverage

Apple’s event is being held in front of a select number of members of the media at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino. A simulcast is being held at the Covent Garden Apple Store in London for UK and Europe based media. The event will begin at the following times:

10:00AM – Pacific
11:00AM – Mountain
12:00PM – Central
01:00PM – Eastern
06:00PM – London
07:00PM – Paris
09:00PM – Moscow
02:00AM – Tokyo (Wednesday 5th)
04:00AM – Sydney (Wednesday 5th)

World of Apple will provide coverage of the news and post-event analysis. Apple is not providing a live video but a meta blog of events can be followed on World of Apple’s Twitter feed or the following sites:

iCloud Beta Unleashed With Web Apps [U]

iCloud beta login

iCloud beta login

Apple has today opened up a public beta of iCloud which the company officially unveiled in early June at WWDC in San Francisco. iCloud has been in the hands of developers for some time and offers the same functionality of the old MobileMe service but for free.

One of the main complaints following the unveiling of iCloud in June was the lack of apparent web apps, with the release of iCloud.com Apple has shown that web apps will exist and be integrated very closely in iCloud.

Users can login to iCloud.com with an existing Apple ID but the ability to merge MobileMe data appears to not be functioning at this time.

[Update 1] Pricing has also gone live, according to 9 to 5 Mac an additional (on top of original 5GB) 10GB of iCloud storage will be $20/year, 20GB will be $40/year and 50GB will be $100/year.

[Update 2] iCloud.com beta does not appear to be a public beta but instead only available to registered developers.

Where Is iTunes Streaming?

iTunes Store

iTunes Store

Those that recall the rumours leading up to this years Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco will know that many of them made mention of Apple making deals with music labels for a streaming music service.

Following Apple’s announcement of iCloud and the associated iTunes in the cloud features there was an absence of any form of streaming. In the aftermath the many talks outlined between Apple and music labels were concluded to have been about iTunes Match and the adjustment to the number of machines capable of playing purchased music, but now it seems streaming could still be in the pipeline.

During yesterday’s earnings call Apple’s Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer revealed that the next financial quarter will offer “neat stuff” with regards to content on the iTunes Store.

Full quote including original question that instigated the answer from Seeking Alpha:

Brian Marshall – Gleacher & Company, Inc.

And then perhaps a quick follow-up. With respect to content accumulation in regards to video, can you talk a little bit why we don’t have more movie titles on iTunes at this point, and if we are going to be rectifying that in the future?

Peter Oppenheimer

Sure. Brian, it’s Peter. We have a very, very broad library of movies and TV shows particularly here in the United States. We are adding more content internationally each quarter and look for some more content later this quarter across the various stores. We have some neat stuff coming.

Whilst speculation on comments made by executives during financial earnings calls is frowned upon by this publication it is important to point out the notability of the comments made by Oppenheimer.

Ahead of Apple’s WWDC 2011 announcements the resounding consensus about the arrival of a streaming iTunes service surprised many when the service was absent. This has led some to speculate that the streaming service will come at a later date, presumably wheen Apple finally launches iCloud and iTunes in the cloud during the annual Fall music event.

Apple Posts iTunes 10.3

Apple has iTunes 10.3 available for download on the main Apple website. Despite releasing iTunes 10.5 beta to developers the new version for the public brings some early iCloud features which are available to iOS 4.3 devices.

The following notes accompany the iTunes 10.3 download:

Introducing iTunes in the Cloud beta. The music you purchase in iTunes appears automatically on all your devices. You can also download your past iTunes purchases. Where you want, when you want.

- Automatic Downloads. Purchase music from any device or computer and automatically download a copy to your Mac and iOS devices.

- Download Previous Purchases. Download your past music purchases again at no additional cost. Your purchases are available in the iTunes Store on your Mac or in the iTunes app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Previous purchases may be unavailable if they are no longer on the iTunes Store.

iTunes 10.3 also adds Books to the iTunes Store, where you can discover and buy your favorite books on your computer and automatically download them to iBooks on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

This version also allows you to use Automatic Downloads with apps and books or download previously purchased apps and books from your computer or iOS device.

iTunes 10.5 will be available after a period of developer exclusivity in September when iOS 5 is released.